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This powerful and inspiring debut invites us into a landscape populated with young people whose lives have been irreversibly changed by misfortune but whose voices resound with resilience, courage, and humor. Inside the halls of ILLC, an institution for juveniles with disabilities, we discover a place that is deeply different from and yet remarkably the same as the world outside. Nussbaum crafts a multifaceted portrait of a way of life hidden from most of us. In this isolated place on Chicago’s South Side, friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin. It’s in these alliances that the residents of this neglected community ultimately find the strength to bond together, resist their mistreatment, and finally fight back. And in the process, each is transformed.

Published: Workman Publishing on
ISBN: 9781616202675
List price: $11.99
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Availability for Good Kings Bad Kings: A Novel
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Unsurprisingly, Good Kings Bad Kings won Barbara Kingsolver’s PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. It is a wonderfully written account of life in a live-in facility for disabled young people, written in the various voices of the people involved. There is nothing sentimental or sappy about these first person accounts. Yessenia Lopez describes the people in her home in the first chapter."They send people with physical challenges, but also retarded challenges, people been in accidents like brain accidents, or they're blind or what have you. I do not know why they send us all to the same place but that's the way it's always been and that's the way it looks like it will always be because I am in tenth grade and I been in cripple this or cripple that my whole sweet, succulent Puerto Rican life." The narrators speak directly to the reader, creating a feeling of intimacy. Twenty-one year old Teddy is another resident in the facility. "They told my dad I'm retarded...My dad said that's just a word they use that means I got a different way of learning stuff. That's the way I think of it because I sure don't feel retarded. My friend Ryan's retarded and I asked him if he feels retarded and he said no. So I guess I am but I don't notice it."We also hear the voices of the underpaid workers in the home. "The main thing I do is drive the bus. I load up a bunch of kids in wheelchairs and take them to school, little field trips, or to church or what have you. When I ain't driving, they call me when a kid gets out of line. I'm a bus driver/cop. Somebody's gotta do it, I guess. No, but I like it here okay."The facility is a for profit organization, filling beds and getting money from Medicare. It's understaffed, with abuse and neglect running rampant. The characters, both patients and low-level employees, are tough and spirited, leaving the reader rooting for them all the way. Good Kings Bad Kings was a page-turner that I was sorry to see end.more

Reviews

Unsurprisingly, Good Kings Bad Kings won Barbara Kingsolver’s PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. It is a wonderfully written account of life in a live-in facility for disabled young people, written in the various voices of the people involved. There is nothing sentimental or sappy about these first person accounts. Yessenia Lopez describes the people in her home in the first chapter."They send people with physical challenges, but also retarded challenges, people been in accidents like brain accidents, or they're blind or what have you. I do not know why they send us all to the same place but that's the way it's always been and that's the way it looks like it will always be because I am in tenth grade and I been in cripple this or cripple that my whole sweet, succulent Puerto Rican life." The narrators speak directly to the reader, creating a feeling of intimacy. Twenty-one year old Teddy is another resident in the facility. "They told my dad I'm retarded...My dad said that's just a word they use that means I got a different way of learning stuff. That's the way I think of it because I sure don't feel retarded. My friend Ryan's retarded and I asked him if he feels retarded and he said no. So I guess I am but I don't notice it."We also hear the voices of the underpaid workers in the home. "The main thing I do is drive the bus. I load up a bunch of kids in wheelchairs and take them to school, little field trips, or to church or what have you. When I ain't driving, they call me when a kid gets out of line. I'm a bus driver/cop. Somebody's gotta do it, I guess. No, but I like it here okay."The facility is a for profit organization, filling beds and getting money from Medicare. It's understaffed, with abuse and neglect running rampant. The characters, both patients and low-level employees, are tough and spirited, leaving the reader rooting for them all the way. Good Kings Bad Kings was a page-turner that I was sorry to see end.more
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